School shooting. The words alone send a shiver down many people's spine and with statistics showing the number of school incidents going up, law enforcement is cracking down.
Sandy Hook, Red Lake, MN, Virginia Tech, and Columbine are all names associated with some of the largest loss of young life in our nation's history. In Nebraska, one Sheriff's Department is taking a unique way of making sure no school in their county gets added to that list.
"We teach our deputies how we're going to react and what we're going to do in the case that there's somebody in a school that's been shooting people," said Merrick County Sheriff Kevin Campbell. "I want, and we need, that every deputy is familiar with the school."
Familiarity like knowing the layout of every school in the county, which classrooms have doors that lock and which ones don't.
The Merrick County Sheriff's Department joined other departments in training with TAC*ONE Consulting from Colorado on how to deal with rural school shootings
"We focused more on that single and two officer class because it's more applicable to the working environment so we tried to beat it into their heads saying you may very literally be the only police officer for 30 minutes depending on where you're at until you get, let's say, the Nebraska State Trooper that responds or the County Sheriff that's 45 minutes away," said Joe Deedon, from TAC*ONE.
Deedon's personal experience makes him the perfect person to train local law enforcement.
"I responded to a Platte Canyon shooting which we had out here in 2006 in Bailey, CO. And then I responded to Deer Creek Middle School which we had out here in February of 2010 and that was our last one that we had here in Colorado prior to the Arapahoe High School shooting that just took place back in December," said Deedon.
Schools in Merrick County say they love the idea of this training.
"This hopefully provides maybe a more safe environment for our kids and that's the ultimate goal. We want a safe environment for all students," said Shawn McDiffett, the Principal of Central City High School
Jeff Ellsworth, the Principal of Chapman School added, "I think it's in the back of every administrator's mind anywhere in the nation, anywhere in the world. You know it could happen at any time, you just don't know. So I think the most preparation we can have and be ready for that, that's great but, honestly you're never ready."
To make the simulations as real life as possible, officers use compressed air combat guns with chalk pellets in order to take down their subject.
"What we used is, it's called Ram. Basically it's a .40 caliber so it fits right into our holsters, it'll lock in. They shoot very similarly to what our own duty weapon does. The weight's basically the same. We want something that's going to feel and react as closely to ours as what we can," said Sheriff Campbell.
On top of the live shooter training, the Sheriff's Department goes through training with teachers on what they can do to subdue a shooter.
Principal McDiffett said, "They gave us insight to maybe a more realistic situation and said here's some things you really need to think about if this was ever to happen in your school. And we heard a lot of really good comments from teachers and said, 'Hey that is some of the best training we've had.'"
And while students are in no way involved in the training, Sheriff Campbell said they have discussed these types of situations in meetings with classrooms.
He said, "Most of the time the kids know what's going on far before a parent or and adult knows and so that's one thing that we really do push with all the kids that we talk to that, you know, you guys are the ones that are around each other all the time. If something's going on, tell somebody so that we can try and get it stopped before it turns into something bigger."
Sheriff Campbell prescreened 10/11's story to be sure no real tactic was shown or discussed. They take this very seriously and want to be sure no potential attacker could gain advantage from what was shown in this story.